The question seems inevitable, so let's ask it now. If Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals cannot reach a contract agreement today and Pujols actually follows through on his threat to test the free-agent waters at the end of this season would the guy currently acknowledged as the game's best player end up with the New York Yankees?
This is really a two-fold question. Could it happen? Sure. These are the mega-rich Yankees, of course, who never say never when it comes to any superstar. They have to prop up the YES Network. They have to put stars on the field to justify those exorbitant prices they charge for Yankee Stadium luxury seating. They have to keep as many of those stars away from the Boston Red Sox as possible. They have to uphold the Steinbrenner legacy of never allowing cost to get in the way. They always want the newest, shiniest, most expensive toys.
The Yankees already have Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, you say? CC Sabathia, too. Well, they brought in A-Rod when he was considered the game's best player. He isn't that anymore, so wouldn't the Yankee way be to bring in the newest model?
The other part of the question is, should it happen? In reality, no, it shouldn't.
The Yankees already have a pretty darn good guy at first base in Mark Teixeira, and he is signed to a $180-million deal that runs through 2016. What do you do with him if you bring in Pujols? They will be paying Rodriguez' $275-million deal through 2017. They are on the hook for Sabathia's $152-million deal through 2015. B
At some point, even the Yankees have to look at the bottom line and say, enough is enough. It seems maybe the organization, with Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman making the decisions, is trying to be a little smarter about spending its money. Correctly, they seem to be trying to get away from contracts that tie them to players well beyond their best years.
The Yankees played hardball with Jeter over the winter, not giving in to his desire for a six-year deal that would have taken him into his 40s. They foolishly let Hank Steinbrenner give A-Rod that kind of deal a few years back, and it will hurt them in the end. They lost Cliff Lee over the winter, partially because they weren't willing to give him a seven-year deal. In the old days, they would not have blinked.
Pujols wants a 10-year deal from the Cardinals, which they are apparently loathe to give him. Why should the Yankees give it to him? Do that, they will be stuck with two guys -- A-Rod and Pujols -- getting 'best player in the game' money well beyond their 'best player in the game' productivity.
Sure, the thought of Pujols in the middle of the Yankee lineup between Robinson Cano and A-Rod sounds kind of cool. It seems highly unlikely, though. I simply don't see it as smart, or remotely necessary.
Then again, if the Yankees fall on their faces in 2011 and miss the playoffs you and I both know how things are in the Bronx. All bets will be off.